Devotional Text: Matthew 2:13-15
The magi were experts in both religion and astronomy. Among other things, they believed that important events on earth influenced the night sky—and vice versa. Therefore, when they saw the Star of Bethlehem, they pieced it together with what they knew about Judaism and concluded that the Messiah had been born.
They followed the star as far as it would take them: to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel. Surely, they reasoned, Israel’s Messiah would be born here. Upon arriving in the capital, however, they learned otherwise. Bible scholars in Jerusalem pointed them to Bethlehem. Scripture, these scholars said, foretold that the Messiah would be born in David’s hometown.
Given that Herod was “troubled” by the news—as was the populace in Jerusalem—the magi’s journey was hardly a secret. Perhaps Jerusalem’s citizens knew from painful experience that when their king was “troubled,” he took it out on his subjects. Regardless, many people in Jerusalem, including the Bible scholars that Herod and the magi consulted, knew about the star and the magi’s journey. As best we can tell, however, the magi made the journey to Bethlehem alone.
Why? Didn’t these scholars believe the Bible? Even Herod believed it—enough to go on a murderous rampage! These scholars must have believed it was possible, if not likely, that scripture was being fulfilled. Yet they stayed home. They didn’t accompany the magi to worship the newborn king.
Their inaction or indifference reminds us of James’s words in James 1:22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” And his warning in 2:17: “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”